When I started my own business some years ago, one of the things I found the hardest was keeping track of all that client information. Everything was stored in different places, for example I might have notes from a meeting I’d had with the client last Thursday, stored in a folder somewhere on the file system. Then I’d have e-mails I’d received from them, stored in Thunderbird or MS Outlook depending on what was flavour of the month at the time.
My appointments with the clients would be stored on Google Calendar and imported into Thunderbird or Outlook through some scary third party plugins or websites. Project data was probably on the file system – if I was lucky.
My wife was used to using ACT! by Sage. We bought a couple of licenses for ACT! a while back, before we made the switch to Mac OSX and it certainly helped keep us better organised. And then we switched to Mac OSX and could no longer use ACT! (actually we could of course using VirtualBox, Parallels or VMWare Fusion – but that meant using Windows still, which we didn’t really want to do). And then we discovered Daylite and haven’t looked back.
Why have we never looked back? Because the way Daylite works fits in so well with our business. MarketCircle seem to have built Daylite on a simple concept, that all aspects of ones business are linked, and therefore you can link all aspects together within Daylite. The whole operating principal of Daylite is structured around linking items to each other.
So, what sorts of data can Daylite store for us?
- Organization Details (companies etc)
- Contact Details
All of these data types can be linked to each other, so you can create a new Project, which is linked to an Organization (or multiple Organizations) which are then linked to Contacts. Projects and Opportunities allow you to track the progress of each using user defined ‘pipelines’ so you can better plan and review where each of your projects and opportunities are at.
Daylite comes with Daylite Mail Integration (DMI) which is a fantastic utility (although not without its faults) which plugs into Mail.app and integrates Mail.app with Daylite. Highlighting a message in Mail.app will cause DMI to search the Daylite database to see if the e-mail has been stored there against the customer record. If Daylite cannot find a matching e-mail address, Daylite will allow you to create a Contact quickly and easily, and then with the tick of a simple checkbox your e-mail is imported into Daylite and linked to that Contact.
The display of emails within Daylite is pretty good, HTML e-mails are displayed as they should. I do sometimes notice a lag between adding the email from Mail.app to it showing up in Daylite but it’s usually only a few minutes and nothing particularly to worry about. They always end up there.
DMI can be quite flaky on occasions and is heavily coupled to the version of Mail.app you’re using, so don’t be surprised if a Software Update from Apple breaks your Daylite Mail Integration. MarketCircle are pretty quick to keep up with new versions though and I’ve never been without it for more than a few days.
I do find it best to unset the option to automatically connect to Daylite when Mail is started though. This was on advice from MarketCircle after I had some network issues whereby Daylite would lose touch with the server, which would cause Daylite to crash. This crash would then ask me if I wanted to send a crash report to MarketCircle, to which I responded yes, but because Daylite was down, Mail wouldn’t work either and I couldn’t do anything with either of them until I used Force Quit from the dock. Taking the tick out of the box seems to help. Although it still crashes on occasions if the network blips, I don’t get stuck in a loop of each app relying on the other to work. The screenshot on the right is taken from Mail.app Preferences.
One quite annoying let down with Daylite however is the handling of other files that you may want to attach to the client record. With Sage ACT! the file was imported and stored into the actual ACT! database, whereas with Daylite only a link to the file is stored. There’s two aspects to this, one is good and one is bad. The good part about Daylite’s approach is that your database doesn’t end up being huge. That’s good for backup purposes. But on the other hand, that’s also the bad side. I’d like all my customer files, whatever their format, to be stored in the Daylite database so I know where they are and that they’re being seperately backed up. At the moment I have to maintain a seperate file hierarchy on the filesystem itself and make sure it’s backed up and that I don’t delete it. I’d prefer a bigger Daylite database to have that peace of mind. Having said that, PDF documents are imported into the system and can be viewed directly within Daylite, which is a plus.
Daylite also comes with an Appointments database, or calendar which integrates and synchronises nicely with iCal – and with your iPhone if you have one. You can also purchase Daylite Touch seperately if the standard iCal integration isn’t enough for you. Daylite Touch is a nice little iPhone app which I’ll review here later, although this site isn’t really about iPhone application reviews, this one is sufficiently linked to OSX through needing Daylite that I’ll make an exception! The appointments database can do everything you’d expect from such a feature – recurring appointments, appointments linked to Projects, Contacts, Organizations, Opportunities etc.
There’s only a couple of minor gripes – the DMI tight coupling being one. Another slight niggle is that pressing the X in the corner makes most applications of this nature disappear (or hide) but with Daylite the X means quit. On OSX Leopard that means you have to minimise the application which gives you an extra dock icon while Daylite is running. Snow Leopard users won’t notice this as much since on Snow Leopard apps will minimise to their original dock icon rather than creating lots of new ones.
I’ve not even looked into the various reports that can be generated from Daylite – I suspect I’ve used about 25% of the actual functionality of Daylite. It’s extremely comprehensive, but fortunately doesn’t seem to exhibit this as bloat.
All in all, I believe Daylite is worth every cent of the $279 per seat. It’s around the same price as Sage ACT! and if they made a Windows version I really believe it would blow ACT! out of the water. If you’re an ACT! user who’s recently switched to Mac then MarketCircle can provide you with assistance to migrate your ACT data.
Daylite helps keep your business and client data in the one spot, and more importantly it helps keep you organised with that data. The linking between data items is intuitive and easy to use. The system is fast and doesn’t overburden you with data entry, allowing you to concentrate on running your business not your contact management software.
Positives: Flexible, integrates well, good support
Negatives: Pricey, requires client-server, filesystem based storage for linked documents
Trial Available: Yes
Price: $279.95 AUD per user